A comparative hospital-based observational study of mono- and co-infections of malaria, dengue virus and scrub typhus causing acute undifferentiated fever.Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 2016; 35(4):705-11EJ
Positive serology for dengue and/or scrub typhus infection with/without positive malarial smear (designated as mixed or co-infection) is being increasingly observed during epidemics of acute undifferentiated febrile illnesses (AUFIs). We planned to study the clinical and biochemical spectrum of co-infections with Plasmodium sp., dengue virus and scrub typhus and compare these with mono-infection by the same organisms. During the period from December 2012 to December 2013, all cases presenting with AUFIs to a single medical unit of a referral centre in Garhwal region of the north Indian state of Uttarakhand were retrospectively selected and categorised aetiologically as co-infections, malaria, dengue or scrub typhus. The groups thus created were compared in terms of demographic, clinical, biochemical and outcome parameters. The co-infection group (n = 49) was associated with milder clinical manifestations, fewer, milder and non-progressive organ dysfunction, and lesser need for intensive care, mechanical ventilation and dialysis as compared to mono-infections. When co-infections were sub-grouped and compared with the relevant mono-infections, there were differences in certain haematological and biochemical parameters; however, this difference did not translate into differential outcomes. Scrub typhus mono-infection was associated with severe disease in terms of both morbidity and mortality. Malaria, dengue and scrub typhus should be routinely tested in all patients with AUFIs. Co-infections, whether true or due to serological cross-reactivity, appear to be a separate entity so far as presentation and morbidity is concerned. Further insight is needed into the mechanism and identification of the protective infection.